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View Diary: Norquist: The Greatest Generation is anti-American (194 comments)

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  •  I actually am a socialist (none)
    So that may help explain things.

    As to stocks, I don't see it as providing much in the way of public ownership. Shares are usually controlled by other large corporations, large investors, or the corporate officers themselves. Further, my point about investment itself is that the goal is to see a return on your principal. Stocks normally rise with corporate profits. Corporate profits in the last 20 years or so have come by companies cutting back on wages, benefits, and hiring. How often is it that a stock goes up once a downsizing (to use the '90s term) or offshoring (to use the '00s term) occurs? Way too often. For most in corporate American, concern for workers and concern for profits are indeed mutually exclusive.

    I very much believe that we can have some sort of concern for the well being of industry without giving them the green light as we have been for them to be well at everyone else's expense. I just don't see how mass stock ownership has led to that. In fact I think it's clear that the financialization of the American economy since the 1970s has fundamentally weakened the average person, and stocks simply accelerate a toxic process.

    The overall point that Norquist makes, and that I am inclined to believe, is that anyone hoping to rein in corporate power and bring some real, progressive economic change to this country is going to face an army of 401k holders who would be spooked a new New Deal would be bad for business and thus bad for their portfolio. To Norquist, such an arrangement is wonderful. For me, it is not.

    "you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one" - Lennon

    by eugene on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 09:33:40 PM PDT

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    •  Ah, I see (none)
      Well, obviously you won't like stock ownership then. But anyways:

      "Further, my point about investment itself is that the goal is to see a return on your principal. Stocks normally rise with corporate profits. Corporate profits in the last 20 years or so have come by companies cutting back on wages, benefits, and hiring. How often is it that a stock goes up once a downsizing (to use the '90s term) or offshoring (to use the '00s term) occurs? Way too often. For most in corporate American, concern for workers and concern for profits are indeed mutually exclusive."

      Indeed. But how does this, by itself, indicate stock ownership is bad for American workers? If anything, they will at least stand to gain from the increased profit margins of the companies they own. Yes, you will point out, this profit gain comes at the expense of American workers' jobs, but it's also their profit gain, if they own stock. (This is not a justification of uncontrolled outsourcing, mind you, but of stock ownership.)

      And fundamentally, if people's income is coming primarily from labor, they're still going to (or should, at least, other political manipulation notwithstanding) identify with the interests of workers. Labor and industry will remain pitted against each other. The reason Norquist's claim isn't quite right is that, while stock ownership may inspire more sympathy with companies, most of them will still not be living off of their capital gains. People will still live on their wage or salary. Hence they will not suddenly be entirely sympathetic to their bosses.

      •  Do workers really gain? (none)
        My point is that corporate profitability has a nasty tendency to be wrung out of the sweat of the worker, who is overworked (more so now that overtime is being jiggered with), has his or her health benefits cut, and sees small if any wage increases, assuming they aren't the ones whose jobs are cut to help out the bottom line.

        I would also posit, though cannot prove (researching all this is a dream of mine), that the economic losses as a result of these cuts is not made up for by any gains the employee sees in their stock portfolio, assuming they still have a job. As you say, they can't live off their capital gains.

        So my assumption is that stocks don't help workers because their value rises as workers are hurt, rippling out through the economy as a weakening agent.

        The question about identification is difficult. I firmly believe most workers, and here I mention those who are able to afford some modest stock ownership or who have a 401k or who are in an employee stock program, do indeed identify with the wealthy class more than they do with what may really be their own economic interests. This is the point of Thomas Frank's new book, What's the Matter With Kansas, for example. That identification with the rich and thus the willingness to support things that help the rich a lot and help themselves little, like Bush's tax cut, may be explained by the fact that stock ownership gives one entrance into a different sort of outlook than just as a worker. There are other factors contributing to this identification, but stock I think is a big one.

        In short, these workers don't see themselves as 'labor' because they believe they're in a totally different environment where that binary doesn't exist. They are deluding themselves, but there it is.

        "you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one" - Lennon

        by eugene on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 09:59:27 PM PDT

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        •  asdf (none)
          Yes, well, you could look at the interests of the business owner and those of the worker as being diametrically opposed, and workers who own stock as dipping a little into the former and mostly into the latter. I think the workers you talk about are, as you say, simply deluded as to where they fall on that. They're being suckered into believing they're one of the elite. That needs to be addressed, but I still believe that giving more people more opportunity to reap the benefits of economic production, which public companies do, is a good thing.
    •  What about investing in bonds or municipal bonds? (none)
      Where do you draw the line?  By putting money in a savings account you're giving the bank money to lend out to people at rip-off interest rates.  Should we all just stuff our money under the mattress?  Also by working and buying goods we're making the system work.  So, does that mean we should all quit, live on welfare and starve to death?  Yes, it's an extreme example, but there's some truth to it.  

      It's one thing to have ideals, but you need to keep in mind what the reality actually is.  Our country is capitalistic on steroids.  I don't approve of the system, but that's what there is.  It has a lot of problems, most of which are not connected directly to the stock market, but rather to rampant consumerism and materialism.  

      The way I see it, if people want to buy a bunch of total shit, I have no problem skimming some profit off of them.  If they asked me, I'd tell them not to do it, but they don't.  To some extent pople have to take responsibility for their actions even if it stems from completely sheep-like behavior.  

      As far as socialism being some sort of bar to supporting private investment, I'm just not seeing the connection (this goes to the previous poster too).  There are several socialistic countries in Europe and they all have stock markets and private investors.  Are you thinking of Communism maybe?  The two terms are not one and the same.  

      Anyone who has half a brain is a socialist and I believe probably half the people visiting this site are, whether they realize it and identify with the term or not.  Personally, I would have no problem if we had a communistis system instead of our crappy capitalistic one, but the reality of the matter is we don't.  And, I'm sorry to say, but I'm not going to cut my own nose off to spite my face just because the system is not to my liking.  If it were up to me, I'd change it.  Until that time, I'll manage the best I can with what we have.  

      In Britain they admit to having royalty. In the United States we pretend we don't have any, and then we elect them president.

      by Asak on Mon Sep 20, 2004 at 10:19:50 PM PDT

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